The key differences between autism and asperger syndrome

Key differences between autism and asperger's

The similarities and differences between autism and asperger syndrome

Autism and asperger syndrome are similar in many ways. The World Health Organisation (WHO) now define Asperger’s as an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, but on the milder end of the autistic spectrum.

It is also commonly believed that autistic people who have “average or above average intelligence” have Asperger Syndrome. However, others argue that autism and asperger Syndrome are completely different.

Below are some key characteristics of people with asperger Syndrome:

  • Average, above average or high intelligence
  • A desire to interact with others, but may struggle to do so
  • May unknowingly appear less empathetic
  • Trouble understanding jokes, idioms or sarcasm
  • May speak in an unusual way
  • Are diagnosed at an older age

The key characteristics of asperger syndrome are explained in detail below:


When it comes to IQ tests, people with Asperger Syndrome tend to achieve higher scores than other individuals with Autism. In this way, it is often considered that people with Asperger Syndrome can have a higher intelligence than those who have autism.

Interaction, communication and speech

People with Autism can appear to be “aloof and uninterested in others;” in contrast to people with Asperger Syndrome, who normally have a desire to interact with others but struggle to do so.

Those who have Asperger Syndrome can sometimes appear to lack empathy. An example of this may be if someone said they were unable to go to the cinema because they were involved in a car accident. A neurotypical person is likely to wish them a speedy recovery, but a person with Asperger Syndrome may say that they love going to the cinema and not acknowledge the car accident. This is because they may occasionally struggle to pick up on how others are thinking or feeling via tone of voice or body language.

People with asperger syndrome may also struggle to understand jokes and idioms, such as “it’s raining cats and dogs,” – a person with Asperger syndrome might think cats and dogs are literally fall from the sky when it rains!

This can be similar when sarcasm is used – for example, if a neurotypical person came home after a bad day at work and said: “that’s just what I needed today,” a person with autism may think they actually needed the bad day at work.

In terms of speech, some people with Autism may speak slowly and can be hard to understand. This can be different for people with Asperger Syndrome. They may not experience the same delays in speech but may speak in an unusual pitch or volume, and can sometimes use intonation differently.


People with autism tend to be diagnosed in childhood, whereas people with Asperger syndrome are often not diagnosed until adulthood.

April Slocombe – My Experience with Asperger Syndrome:

April is an animation volunteer at Exceptional Individuals. Below, she shared with us her experience of living with Asperger Syndrome, after being diagnosed when she was 14.

I was officially diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder when I was four years old. As the years went by, I began to wonder whether there was a specific type of autism I had.

When I was 14, I learnt about Asperger Syndrome after reading about it in an Autism article in the now defunct teenage girls’ magazine Mizz. There was a girl named Emma who was the same age as me who had Asperger Syndrome. She took idioms literally and became stressed in massive crowds of people. She also mentioned that people with Autism can fiddle with particular objects for a long time, but she never did this.

After reading the report, I was convinced that I had Asperger Syndrome. I felt that I could identify with the Asperger traits that Emma described, even though I have never received a formal diagnosis of Asperger’s.

In the Mizz magazine report, there was also another girl called Jeana whose brother Garvey was autistic. Garvey was non-verbal and also used PECS cards for communication. When my brother Adam was younger, he would fiddle with objects for a long time, such as my Dad’s ties. Like Adam playing with my Dad’s ties, I sometimes found myself playing with my hair and twisting it around my fingers.

To conclude, I believe I have Autism and Asperger Syndrome. In terms of Autism, my speech is sometimes not clear, I can find it hard to mix with unfamiliar people, and I commonly fiddle and play with my hair. However, I also believe I have Asperger Syndrome in the way I struggle to understand jokes or idioms, have an average to high intelligence (even though I can’t recall taking an IQ test), sometimes speak in unusual intonations and become stressed in crowds.

Other resources

NHS Page on autism:
Autism Society:
Your Dictionary:

If you think you may have either Autism, or Asperger Syndrome, feel free to contact us and we can advise you on how to receive help for your neurodivergence.

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